Dustin Johnson says he’s sticking with the PGA Tour
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A proposed Saudi-financed rival golf league took a massive hit Sunday when Dustin Johnson said he was “fully committed” to the PGA Tour, and Bryson DeChambeau indicated he would stay where the stars were playing.
Johnson added his name to a growing list of golf’s top players who have said they are not interested in taking guaranteed riches from the “Super Golf League” that Greg Norman and his LIV Golf Investments are behind.
Rory McIlroy, the first to speak out against a rival league and the guaranteed riches two years ago, said Sunday’s development left the concept “dead in the water.”
“Who’s left? Who’s left to go?” McIlroy said. “I just can’t see any reason why anyone would go.”
Johnson, a two-time major champion who has spent more time at No. 1 in the world than any of the current players — he now is at No. 6 — had kept his intentions quiet over the last few months, leading to speculation he would join.
“I feel it is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour,” he said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to play on the best tour in the world and for all it has provided me and my family.”
Like some other players, Johnson said there are areas where the PGA Tour can “improve and evolve.”
Hours later, DeChambeau posted a statement on Twitter that appeared to cool his enthusiasm.
“While there has been a lot of speculation surrounding my support for another tour, I want to make it very clear that as long as the best players in the world are playing the PGA Tour, so will I,” DeChambeau said.
Johnson’s statement means no one from the top 10 in the world have indicated any interest in signing up for the league. That doesn’t include DeChambeau at No. 12, or marquee names like Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth.
“I think it’s nice now that we all can sit down and say, ’Look, we’re all on the same page here,” McIlroy said. “Are there things the tour could do better and they’re working on? Of course, but that’s the same in any business, in any sports league around the world.”
McIlroy, Koepka and world No. 1 Jon Rahm were among the first to reject a rival tour at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago, and they doubled down on their support this week at the Genesis Invitational, where the chatter was loud about the proposed league getting close to announcing 20 players.
It picked up steam over the last two weeks because of Phil Mickelson, who is thought to be the lead player of a new league but has made comments that make it unclear what the six-time major champion actually is pursuing.
Mickelson accused the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed” in an interview with Golf Digest while he was at the Saudi International for a seven-figure appearance fee.
And then Alan Shipnuck, who is writing a biography on Mickelson due out this spring, published an excerpt based on a November phone interview in which Mickelson called the Saudis “scary” and referred to the PGA Tour as a “dictatorship.”
Mickelson said three players paid attorneys to write the operating agreement for a new league. He also said he didn’t care if the new league succeeded, as long as it gave players more leverage in dealing with the PGA Tour.
“I’m sure he’s sitting at home sort of rethinking his position and where he goes from here,” McIlroy said.
Some details have been mentioned by agents who have seen the proposal, such as a schedule that includes as many as 10 events in the U.S., with the new league targeting courses owned by former President Donald Trump.
British media has reported without identifying sources that DeChambeau was offered $130 million to join (DeChambeau took to social media to say only it was “wrong”) and Ian Poulter was offered $30 million.
Johnson was asked at the Saudi International, where he was the defending champion, whether he was offered something similar.
“No, not similar,” Johnson said to laughter, indicating it was far greater.
Viktor Hovland said earlier this week his wish was to play on the PGA Tour, and all that could change his mind would be if the best players in the world went to the new league.
The 24-year-old from Norway, who is No. 4 in the world, didn’t see that happening at the moment.
“It seemed a lot of good players are voicing their support for the PGA Tour, so that’s certainly going to be a tall task for other leagues if the best players don’t want to go,” Hovland said.
Xander Schauffele, the No. 7 player in the world, fell in line with that thinking in an interview Saturday afternoon when he said, “For me, I want to be on the best tour possible and compete against the best players in the world.”
He was at the Saudi International, which is not part of the proposed league, but was not inclined to sign up with Norman’s group.
Schauffele said he hopes the threat of a new league can lead to the PGA Tour improving its product and perhaps making concessions on such items as media rights.
“At the end of the day, all I want is to be part of the best product possible,” he said.
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